At its best, Telltale’s take on the Caped Crusader is at its best when it’s twisting what we know of fan-favorite characters like The Joker and Bane and taking them to unexpected places. With Fractured Mask, this quality still turns out to be the strong point while the issues that so often plague all Telltale games—bad animations, poor pacing—are present.
Fractured Mask finds Bruce Wayne digging deeper in the criminal group The Pact, trying to gain the trust of ringleader Harley Quinn, while balancing the needs of his allies and foes. No other episode in the Batman series has focused as hard on making difficult choices about who’s friend and who’s foe as much as Fractured Mask does, requiring you to often balance one character’s needs against another, sometimes with possibly deadly results. In these moments, Fractured Mask really shines, as there were two characters I genuinely wanted the best for but ultimately had to choose between. In the end, I feel like I made the best choice I could but still felt guilty, which, frankly, isn’t something a Telltale game has accomplished for me in a long time.
While it’s refreshing to care about my choices and the characters who benefit/suffer under them, Fractured Mask still drags in quite a few places, filling sections with moments that wink at fans of the comic with cameos or tedious puzzles. Any moment that I had to walk around and investigate an environment or ‘solve’ some deathtrap that guided me toward the solution anyway, I resented. These sections just aren’t entertaining or fun, and I often found myself wishing that the entire episode was something I could just watch and occasionally make choices, as opposed to having pacing come to a standstill so I could jump through some hoops to progress.
Still, Fractured Mask’s story moments are ultimately worth the price of admission, even those outside of the ones that required me to make difficult choices. A number of sequences between Wayne and a certain other character are a nice surprise because they take on the tone of a romantic comedy and are refreshing for a franchise so often basking in the grime of humanity. The storyline concerning Bruce and Joker’s relationship is also fascinating, as this episode feels like the first time we really get to influence who The Joker is in a way that will probably make us ultimately accountable for whomever he becomes by the series’ close. While it’s hard to judge how effective this arc is without the ending pieces there, it’s shaping up to be one of the most interesting Joker origin stories in years—if Telltale can pull off the landing.
When all is said and done, Fractured Mask emerges as one of the stronger episodes in both Batman seasons as well as one of the strongest outings of Telltale’s catalog in recent memory. While the old problems are still ever present, watching the Joker’s gradual, earned transformation into villain as well as having to make genuinely difficult choices have me curious about what’s going to be left of Telltale’s Gotham (not to mention Bruce Wayne) by the series’ end.